Dir. Philip Noyce. USA. 2010.

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This espionge, new cold war thriller written by Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen) has had a long gestation period originally intended as a vehicle for Tom Cruise as Ethan Salt; but following his long attachment to the Mission: Impossible and the similarities this film shares with that franchise, coupled with his falling star status meant that the tagline, 'Who is Salt?' carried not a query of her enigmatic being, but more in asking who will play it.  Angelina Jolie, the most physical of Hollywood actresses in that she does her own stunts following on from 'Tomb Raider' and 'Wanted', is the most bankable of Hollywood female stars and like most stars is in need of a franchise to call her own.
Evelyn Salt, is introduced to us in a pre-credit sequence as a hostage in North Korea, eventually freed in a bargain for a Korean spy is met by her superior Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) who tells her to not say anything. This positions her as sometimes subservient to her male superiors, the fact that she is tortured in her bra and panties is something not to go into but is open to arguments.  Cut to modern day, two years later and she is married to a German specialist in arachnids (August Diehl), near the end of a working day a Russian spy seeks asylum in Washington, during the interrogation it transpires that a Russian spy will kill the Russian President on his visit to New York the next day. He informs them that the spy's name is Evelyn Salt. Salt says that is her name. So she is a Russian spy says he. This leads to the extended game of cat and mouse, where the CIA seek to keep her locked up and away from the Russian head of state, whilst she seeks to escape and get there herself.
The film could so easily have regressed and fallen into the traps of sub-par Hollywood action films but it refuses to do this in part due to the efforts of Jolie in the role of never to be outdone spy, who is a match for any male the invention of a grenade launcher using a fire extinguisher shows her inventiveness and calmness under pressure.  In this instance, the film was reminiscent most of 'The Fugitive' - the pantheon of action films of a person done wrong and on the run to clear their name.
It is because of this  that the person who should gain the most credit (but will remain unsung) will be the director Noyce, who helps elevate the set pieces to important moments that lend the film credence and credibility.  Noyce has previous experience in 'Patriot Games' and 'Clear and Present Danger', action in thrillers but it is the thriller element he raises to higher levels, face offs become moments of brewing intensities such as when Salt tries to shoot an enemy through a bulletproof window, the enemy does not blink.  It reminded me of his work on 'The Quiet American' where the underlying psychological effect on the character tried to weed itself out against an atypical political story.  The use of reigniting the Cold War plotline is not unheralded as the real reason is to ignite the war of religion through proliferation of nuclear weapons. 
The ending leads to the inevitability of a sequel but unlike most franchises there is enough of a character and action to maintain your interest - and is now up to speed with the Bourne franchise. Whereas Bourne started his trilogy not knowing who he was in a world that he very much knew; Salt is a person who knows who she is in a very uncertain world with an unknown direction.
Jamie Garwood

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